Refused are a hardcore punk band from Umea, Sweden that started in 1991 originally. They played for the better part of the 90s before splitting up in 1998 after releasing their magnum opus, “The Shape of Punk to Come”.
Their new album certainly echoes the sound of that era. They could easily have fit on a bill alongside Fugazi and Faith No More. They mix elements of punk rock, metal, and funk and their lyrics are very anti-conformist and leftist. They recently reformed in the 2012 and did a world tour and played a series of festivals as well as headlining major clubs before going on another two year hiatus before reuniting again in 2014, although their guitarist Jon Brannstrom was fired shortly after. Their new record, Freedom, is their fourth full length on Epitaph records.
A good record is constructed like a circus tent with three major peaks and valleys. It’s important to hook the listener in with a great intense song or two towards the beginning that get them listening. Then, it will give their ears a break and give them some dynamics and “descend” in a sense. Then towards the middle, another tent pole picks with another great song followed by another valley before finally finishing strong with another tent pole.
‘Freedom’ hits you hard with “Elektra” and keeps then begins the slow descent towards the valley which bottoms out somewhere around “Francafique.” Then, true to good album form, the journey back upwards to the second tent pole begins. This second peak is reached at “War on the Palaces” which would definitely be a personal favorite on this record.
Then a small valley comes for the next two songs. Then the final tentpole is reached with “Servants of Death” and the album ends by dropping most of its electrified intensity in a slower, more acoustic live song “Useless Europeans” which feels like a well-deserved water break from a full album high intensity, hardcore art punk.
Refused’s new record is exemplary. They are certainly great band and hopefully they continue to tour and do shows into the next couple years, seeing that they may easily disband for another few years as they have done before. All in all, it’s a worthy album. Song order is a lost art among many modern musicians. Perhaps with the return of the vinyl record and the cassette tape, people will rediscover it. A band can make a record with the all the same songs but the order will make the difference between whether or not someone will spend 30-45 minutes listening to it. Refused nailed it with this one.
Anthony Augello is a writer, musician, actor and Post-Modern man from Los Angeles. You can follow him on Twitter.